At last week’s Unpacked event, Samsung unveiled its new flagship Galaxy Z Fold 4 foldable phone, which adds better multitasking software, a slimmer design and a more durable body. But one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the eye-popping $1,800 price tag — something few consumers can afford. But that exclusivity is exactly why the Fold 4 exists.
As CEO TM Roh said in Unpacked, keeping the Z Fold 4 at about twice the price of other high-end phones seems confusing when Samsung wants foldable phones to become more mainstream.I think lowering the price is the best waythis holiday. With Samsung holding steady on the Z Fold 4’s price, it’s clear the company is content to keep it as a niche device only available to tech enthusiasts with deep pockets.
The Z Fold 4 sits above a stratum with no real competition. It’s essentially a Ferrari between Mercedes and BMW. Creating this level of exclusivity is all about giving Samsung something exciting and aspirational to create buzz and interest across the lineup. IDC research director Nabila Popal said lowering its price by hundreds of dollars won’t make any difference.
Keeping the Z Fold 4 at $1,800 is “the right move in my opinion, even if the masses can’t afford it,” Popal said.
This dynamic, which runs counter to the idea that low-priced foldables could fuel interest in the category, is one of the dilemmas facing the entire field. Foldable phones occupy an exciting niche in the phone business, with drab sheets of metal and glass popping up for more than a decade. But the high price keeps them from really breaking out.
The only answer is to slowly build market and interest by combining exciting but not-so-easy-to-achieve options like the Z Fold 4 and the relatively affordable $1,000 Z Flip 4.
Samsung hopes the Z Fold 4’s dynamic design — which is still impressive — will make the company pop ahead of Apple’s own event next month and generate excitement about foldables in general.
Samsung relies on the Z Flip series to sell atmosphere Foldable phones, transitional phones that can change shape. Samsung has work to do as they remain scarce in the wild, with research firm IDC estimating just over 7 million foldable phone shipments in 2021, compared with the 1.3 billion smartphones sold last year.
From a market perspective, the small batches that the Z Fold 4 could get could help Samsung regain some of its global share of premium phones as Apple’s salesPremium phones from $800 and up worldwide.
Expensive parts do not reduce prices
While the price cuts will help Samsung make its foldable phones mainstream, the company may have no choice but to keep prices the same. Unlike true mainstream products like Samsung’s Galaxy S series, which have flat-panel displays and components used in many other smartphones, the small number of foldables sold each year have special parts.
“That means the very specialized components required … are still only produced in small batches, and therefore likely still very expensive,” said Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell.
This leads to a chicken-and-egg problem that affects every specialized device: parts don’t get cheaper until they are mass-manufactured, and mass-manufacturing them at a time when consumers buy expensive devices that use them too sparingly meaningless part. That’s why few phone makers make foldable phones, including Apple, O’Donnell said.
“We can’t really ignore the fact that the supply chain isn’t really ready for Apple-grade products, and that’s part of the reason Apple isn’t. [made a foldable] Either,” O’Donnell said.
Samsung is breaking the difference with the Z Flip 4, a clamshell foldable phone that has half the footprint of a “tablet” smartphone when closed, but unfolds to reveal an inner screen as big as any regular phone display . Samsung sees the Z Flip 4 as an “entry device” that transforms audacious buyers into foldable life-savers, an entry point for consumers to eventually upgrade to the larger, more expensive Z Fold line.
Samsung says the Z Flip is the best-selling series, accounting for 70 percent of the company’s foldable shipments, but the two devices serve different demographics. The Z Flip is stylish, but in the end it’s just a shrunken version of a typical “tablet” smartphone, not a rudimentary version of the productivity-enhancing Z Fold device that unfolds into a tablet-sized screen.
More foldables are sold every year, and IDC predicts that shipments of foldables will grow to 25 million units by 2025. It’s hard to predict whether this will be enough to enable cheaper foldables. Samsung at least got creative with offering more value foldables.
Get cheaper foldables with trade-ins and carrier deals
The industry is working hard to make foldables a thing. With Samsung’s generous trade-in value and various carrier deals, you can snag the Galaxy Z Fold 4 for less than $1,800. Samsung kept its elite price tag, the carrier got more customers to log on to their service, and customers got access to the next evolution of phones.
If you ship an older Z Fold 3, Z Fold 2, or this year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung’s trade-in deal knocks $1,000 off the Z Fold 4’s list price. But the trade-in value of the original Z Fold or other Samsung flagship phones from the past few years is still pretty good. Apple’s most expensive phones also have decent trade-in value, but phones from Google, Motorola, LG, or OnePlus have almost no value.
Carriers can also save you money on the Z Fold 4, with Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile offering different trade-in deals that can slash the price by up to $1,000. If your family needs two foldable devices, Verizon is also offering an $800 discount after purchasing the first Z Fold 4.
Another option is to wait for Black Friday or the holiday season, when Samsung may unveil new deals to discount its foldables.
Just don’t hold your breath for Samsung to discount its most premium mobile devices.Unlike the Z Flip 3, it getsOnce its successor is revealed this week, the Z Fold 3 will cost the same $1,800 on Samsung’s website as it was when it launched a year ago. Due to the high price of components, it takes years of research and development to recover the cost, and coupled with the lack of competition, there is little pressure on Samsung to cut prices.
Samsung “is currently leading in this space and has the ability to charge a premium before other Android players enter the space, maybe even Apple in a few years,” Popal said.